On Might 19, 2023, Timothy Keller handed away following a three-year battle with pancreatic most cancers. Many readers of this web site shall be accustomed to Keller’s work because the founding pastor of Manhattan’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church and as a well-regarded up to date apologist. He was significantly famous for his capability to combine considerate concepts from philosophy and tradition into his insightful biblical exposition. Right here, a few of Christ and Pop Tradition’s writers current their reflections on how Keller’s life and thought knowledgeable or formed their very own work.
A Man of Grace and Reality
There’s rather a lot I may say about Tim Keller, however I’ll maintain it transient. On the finish of his life, his demise is a reminder that even essentially the most caring, good, service-oriented, and insightful women and men have an expiration date. How we impression others alongside the journey with our items, abilities, time, vitality, and information is what’s going to matter most after we are gone.
And what mattered most to me about Tim Keller was his constant method to humanity with grace and fact. In fact, this shall be an overstatement for a lot of of you, however I’ll state it anyway: I want extra Christians have been like Tim Keller. I want I was extra like him as a result of his pursuit and pleasure was to be as loving as Christ was to the world.
“The gospel says you might be concurrently extra sinful and flawed than you ever dared imagine, but extra beloved and accepted than you ever dared hope.” — Timothy Keller
Isn’t This What We Are?
Although I’m a literature professor by commerce and a cultural analyst right here at CaPC, I first discovered about Keller by way of listening to his sermons. Although I’m a layperson, I’m additionally a pastor’s child and an intellectually promiscuous reader, so I’ve had quite a lot of time to ingest biblical scholarship. A very good sermon should be sensible, after all, however I additionally need it to train me one thing I didn’t know. (The best way to my coronary heart is thru my thoughts, as if these have been even two totally different schools.) This units a bar for preaching that appears nearly unimaginable to fulfill. But, as I quickly discovered, that is precisely the usual Timothy Keller saved all through his pastoral ministry: sermons that have been erudite and instructive but additionally deeply sensible too. He preached what stays to today my all-time favourite sermon.
However what I discovered in following his work was that whether or not in his preaching, his talks and interviews, his different writings, and even (as greatest I can inform) in his life, he modeled what I had all the time thought evangelical Christianity may very well be (certainly, what I, in my little mental nook, had all the time grown up considering it was). Nicely-read and interdisciplinary, clear however nuanced, truthful however gracious, crusing towards the long run with the wind of custom in his sails, Timothy Keller was merely the fullest embodiment of qualities I used to be used to seeing amongst associates and colleagues in church buildings and Christian schools throughout my whole life.
In a current article, Michael Luo asks whether or not Keller’s work will have the ability to proceed. In our fractious and polarized setting, are there different leaders of his caliber doing what he did, balancing ardent religion with charitable argument and sturdy cultural sensibilities in a approach that rejects our at the moment insufficient Western classes? I don’t know the reply to this on the macro-level. I do know loads of individuals doing it on different tiers, from easy church parishioners and members of the family to colleagues around the globe and throughout disciplines. Domestically, I consider my acquaintance Leslie Anne Bustard, additionally taken from us by most cancers this 12 months, who, along with her husband Ned helped information Sq. Halo Books (which has even printed a e-book about Keller’s work). Can this tribe win the day in our present local weather? I can’t say. However at the least now we have had one image of what it may appear like.
He Was Form
In watching the circulate of on-line reactions to Tim Keller’s demise, I couldn’t assist however discover one dominant theme: his kindness. Again and again, individuals recalled situations when Keller reached out, despatched a be aware, arrange a gathering, or simply supplied some encouraging phrases to somebody badly in want of just a little compassion.
And it wasn’t simply kindness to his friends, both. Repeatedly, individuals have shared recollections of Keller’s kindness to them once they have been in no place to do something for him. To all of the “little individuals,” the bloggers with only a handful of readers, the obscure pastors, the ladies experiencing bruising pile-ons on social media or of their church buildings, he made it a particular level to be type. And to those that disagreed with him, as effectively. One girl who labored with him, and who’s now pursuing ordination, wrote, “I used to be by no means handled less-than as a result of I had totally different beliefs. My contributions to our work have been all the time acknowledged.” Anybody who’s spent 5 minutes in our present cultural milieu will acknowledge how uncommon and valuable that’s.
The times and weeks to return will undoubtedly deliver many reflections on Keller’s doctrine, worldview, management, and preaching abilities. All of these are unquestionably vital. However how transferring—and the way biblical—that the very first thing to return to so many individuals’s minds was merely, “He was type.” Might his instance encourage us to do likewise.
“And although I’ve the present of prophecy, and perceive all mysteries and all information, and although I’ve all religion, in order that I may take away mountains, however haven’t love, I’m nothing.” —1 Corinthians 13:2 (NKJV)
As a result of He Was Trustworthy…
I most likely shouldn’t be writing any type of tribute to Timothy Keller, however right here I’m, doing it anyway. The factor is, I’ve by no means learn something by Keller, and I really feel like that disqualifies me one way or the other. However I’ve prayed for him ever since I heard of his most cancers prognosis, and after I heard phrase of his demise, it struck me just like the passing of a buddy.
The factor about Tim Keller and me is, his phrases and teachings have been throughout me since about 2016. For these previous years, he was the pastor of my pastors, the caregiver of those that have given care to me. He influenced the thought and religious formation of those that have influenced mine. I’ve, in methods I’ll most likely uncover for years to return, discovered from Tim Keller’s devoted pastoring, and it helped me to carry on to Jesus.
Tim Keller has stood for me as a steward of fact throughout years the place the reality has been obscured alongside tribal and political strains. I got here to understand, over the previous few years, that I tended to gravitate towards pastors and lecturers and mentors who quoted quite a lot of Tim Keller. I got here to understand that for me—with the temptation to despair and deconstruct so close to—Tim Keller’s faithfulness and the faithfulness he impressed in others struggling by way of the storm like me meant the entire world to me. As a result of he was devoted, I believe there are lots of who didn’t lose hope. I believe I can, ultimately, name him “buddy,” as a result of I believe he’s the type of one that would have been okay with that.
And I believe I ought to most likely, lastly, learn one among Tim Keller’s books.
The C. S. Lewis of Our Instances
Once I was in school, I served at a small Southern Baptist church within the panhandle of Florida. Within the three years I served at that church, we went by way of 4 totally different pastors. I used to be solely 18 and newly married after I began, and in the course of the course of my time there, I unexpectedly misplaced my mom. This was a tough formative time for me in vocational ministry. After leaving, my spouse and I discovered varied church buildings to go to and finally felt misplaced.
I used to be all the time just a little little bit of a insurgent and commenced spending time with a couple of different college students from my small Bible school at a neighborhood cigar and wine bar. We met a navy household there who wished to start out a Bible examine in a context that was totally different from the native church. We began spending time on the weekends at their home, they usually began inviting a few of their associates. One in every of their associates shared that they’d been part of a church the place the pastor beneficial Tim Keller‘s e-book The Cause for God. This was across the time when Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and others had began the “new atheist” motion whereas evangelicalism was identified for its anti-intellectualism. It was additionally at this level that I used to be launched to the work of the C. S. Lewis of our occasions.
Tim Keller was a Presbyterian and I used to be a diehard Baptist, although honestly, I didn’t perceive our doctrinal variations. Over time, he launched me to a brand new approach of understanding the way to talk the gospel. There was no formulation or beating different individuals with the Bible, and there was honestly nothing apart from grace. Later in my life, I spotted I used to be most likely nearer to being a Presbyterian than being a Baptist, however extra importantly, I spotted that it’s okay to disagree with different individuals about doctrine. Tim Keller taught me that. He taught me that whereas he believed ladies couldn’t maintain the workplace of Pastor, it’s vital to respect anybody and any workplace they’re in. He taught me that when you might disagree with somebody about baptism, so long as persons are coming to saving religion in Jesus Christ, it actually doesn’t matter.
One anecdote involves thoughts after I consider Tim Keller: a lady I do know with a PhD, who’s an ordained pastor, shared with pleasure that she was in a gathering with him. He handled her as an equal, even in an workplace he didn’t imagine she ought to maintain. This doesn’t occur in lots of evangelical areas. Tim taught us a brand new approach ahead and if we need to proceed to cope with our present tradition’s polarization as Christians, we’d do effectively to be taught from his instance.